Category Archives: 3. News You Can Use

Retailers Are Watching Us Shop—Should We Care?

We keep hearing that privacy doesn’t exist anymore, and that we should no longer even expect it. But while most of can understand the need for monitoring the public in some situations, do any of us really want retailers following our movements when we’re in their stores?

It’s already happening. The cosmetic chain Sephora uses Bluetooth to connect to customers’ smartphones and track what they look at. Once that data is gathered, promotions geared to the shoppers’ preferences are sent to their smartphones. Other technology tracks shoppers if they use in-store Wi-Fi, which enables the business to capture shoppers’ data and private information. While Target, Walmart, and Lowe’s have not yet adopted facial-recognition systems that can, among other functions, identify former shoplifters in its stores, these retailers are considering such Big Brother intrusions.

Stores claim technologies that track shopping behaviors help them stay competitive with online retailers. They argue such tracking is being explored to enhance shoppers’ experience. However, privacy advocates claim the risks of abuse from tracking customers physically are too dangerous, and that if allowed to continue, could result in massive data collection that inevitably would be stored and shared. This sharing could theoretically lead to unknowing shoppers being blacklisted, misidentified, or otherwise labeled. If you were purchasing a lot of liquor for a large party, for example, that information could be stored and retrieved by a potential employer who may consider that purchase in a negative light.

Congress is currently considering legislation to protect privacy online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Should lawmakers stop businesses from using our faces and track our every step without permission?


  1. If retailers use facial recognition tracking in stores, should customers be informed or allowed to opt out?
  2. Should stores be allowed to use facial recognition technology to monitor employees as a way to cut down on theft or other issues?
  3. How would you feel about a store that used sensors in shopping carts that could track your eye movements?



Brands Courting Eco-Conscious Consumers

Floating islands of plastic are no one’s idea of a good thing, and now major brands like Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, Unilever, and PepsiCo are looking into reusable containers to address consumer concerns about disposable plastic and the waste it creates.

Single-use packaging is much of the culprit in creating islands of trash in the Pacific. In response to consumers’ complaints about this waste, manufacturers of shampoo, detergent, and packaged food will begin testing this summer to see if they can sell their products in glass, steel, and other materials designed to be returned and refilled.

Unilever will put deodorant in refillable steel containers. PepsiCo will sell orange juice in a glass bottle. P&G will sell its Pantene shampoo in an aluminum container. The products will not change, but their outward packaging will, and in so doing will respond to demands for recyclability and reuse.

Although the products in the reusable packaging won’t cost more, they willrequire consumers to pay for a deposit and arrange to return the refillable containers. The companies testing the packaging are waiting to see if their investments in the sustainable packaging will fly. Because unless a lot of people—not just the most eco conscious—are willing to do more than complain about waste, the mountains of plastic will just keep growing.


  1. Why is it in the interest of big companies to offer reusable containers?
  2. What kinds of entrenched human behavior will these big brand manufacturers have to combat for reusable containers to become mainstream?
  3. What do you think motivates these companies to curtail plastic waste?

Workers Smoking Mad at Vapers

Would you blast your playlist in a communal work space? How about microwaving leftover fish so everyone in the office could “enjoy” your reheated leftovers? Probably not. But what about vaping?

As e-cigarettes become more popular, people in the workplace are steamed about having to unwillingly smell the scented vapors the devices emit. In fact, even the e-cig manufacturer Juul had to ban its own employees from vaping while at work to comply with a 2016 California law prohibiting vaping in the workplace.

California is one of twelve states and many cities that have enacted laws against vaping, the practice of inhaling vapor from a battery-operated device that contains liquid with nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. However, the regulations haven’t been broadly publicized and are not regularly enforced, leaving many non-vapers unhappily inhaling the scents, just as non-smokers were forced to breathe in second-hand smoke years ago. And while inhaling the exhaled vapors from e-cigarettes has not been shown to cause medical problems, it is most definitely causing workplace irritation.

Some find the sucking sound made when inhaling the vapor disturbing, while others grouse about the odor creeping its way into their spaces. Still, the practice is not prohibited in many states, and so vapers continue to vape, whether it’s sneaking a puff in the bathroom or ignoring the building policies requiring smokers of anything—e-cigarette or tobacco—to take their habit outdoors, often to a designated area.

Whose rights should take precedence?

From The Wall Street Journal


  1. If vaping hasn’t been proven to cause medical harm, should it be allowed in public spaces?
  2. Should employers enforce anti-vaping regulations to the point of punishing or firing those who don’t comply?
  3. What would you do if you were in the situation of having to breathe the exhaled vapor of an e-cigarette against your wishes?